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Google loses ‘right to be forgotten’ case (bbc.com)
642 points by zeveb 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 429 comments



This is kind of a trend I've been noticing, where Europe will try to fix a valid technological problem, but pick the most problematic or poorly implemented solution to do it.

It's not clear to me what the difference is between a government censoring someone directly and a government making it impossible for anyone to find a piece of information. Right to Be Forgotten only works if it becomes prohibitively expensive for a company or individual to locate past articles. So who cares whether or not the original source has been taken down?

It's not clear to me why it's not troubling to European citizens for their government to be in charge of what information is and isn't relevant to the public. Whenever I ask people about this, I get the response "well, that's why we have courts." I dunno, Europeans must trust their courts a lot more than I trust mine.

It's not clear to me why this problem couldn't be solved more elegantly by creating anti-discrimination laws around criminal records. If a company gets 90% through the hiring process, runs a background check, and then immediately says "no", then you sue them.

It's also not clear to me that this will be enforceable in the future. I consider distributed site indexing to be an unsolved problem, but I don't think its unsolvable, and people are actively working on it. If for some crazy reason a distributed web search starts getting used on par with DuckDuckGo in the next 5 years, what do you do about that? Ban the technology?


It's not clear to me why this problem couldn't be solved more elegantly by creating anti-discrimination laws around criminal records.

Because anti-discrimination laws around criminal records will work about as well as anti-discrimination laws regarding all the other protected classes (race, gender, age, etc.). Companies will very quickly figure out how to work around them, and will find ways to reject candidates for being a member of said protected class without making it apparent that this is the true cause for rejection.

If a company gets 90% through the hiring process, runs a background check, and then immediately says "no", then you sue them.

If this law passes, that will happen about as often as a company telling you to your face, "We're not hiring you because you're {black| a woman| over 40, etc}." What will probably happen is that companies will move the background check step ahead of the interview step. Then, after they've done the background check and had the interview, they can tell you, "Well, sorry, we've decided to go with a different applicant," just as they do today.


>What will probably happen is that companies will move the background check step ahead of the interview step.

The cost of doing interviews to screen candidates is much lower than background checks. Why would a company want to do that step first?


>The cost of doing interviews to screen candidates is much lower than background checks.

I highly doubt that. An engineer-hour costs roughly $100. A background check probably costs roughly as much as a phone screen, and an order of a magnitude less than an on-site. It'd be pretty easy to do the background check step in between the phone screen and the on-site, and it wouldn't appreciably raise costs to the company.


A low level BG check costs that but that's probably just checking they are on the electoral register an don't have any outstanding judgements against them.

Also spending money externally appears to the company to cost much more than using internal resources


Most interviewers aren’t engineers, in tech sure, but their are lots of other industries


How much does an outsourced background check? Running an interview pool on someone using a bunch of skilled employees costs probably $4K or so. Figure 7 interviews, 3 hrs each (prep, interview, feedback, hiring meeting) plus someone to arrange the onsite. If those are $150K employees, the fully-loaded cost of 20 hrs of work is going to be over $4K.


Interview prep for one candidate is 10 minutes, plus 20 minutes for postinterview discussion.

Subjecting someone to 17 hours of interviews borders on the inhumane.

Plus, interviews are done iteratively; you don't run the whole process for every candidate.

Moreover, background checks are the least likely to actually disqualify candidates, so they are always done last.


I've done 150+ interviews for Google.

A single candidate will do 1-2 screens (this changes over time / role), plus at least 4-5 on-site interviews. That's about 7-8 hours of meetings, minimum. Having interviewed at a number of other SF tech startups, almost all of them had about the same # of interviews.

Once you're past the screen interview, you'll almost always get all 5 interviews in the pool unless you're terrible - it's more efficient to just have the candidate come in once.

Google recommends a 1:1 ratio of prep/feedback time to interview time, so it's ~2 hrs per interview even if you're not involved in the hire / no hire discussion.

The discussion here was specifically that it was likely that background checks would start disqualifying candidates, so maybe it's better to do them up front as that's cheaper than having the interviews done first... I'd say that still makes sense, at least before the pool, if you think there's a reasonable chance they'll get punted.


Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have roughly the same interview process. One hour phone screen, 5 hour on-site interviews, then a decision.

I have never encountered a situation with 7 interviews.

Bear in mind that many wash out during the phone screen, so no, a fully loaded interview schedule is not that sort of commitment at all.


I think he means 7H of interviews in total in order to find the right candidate for the position.


Lol, no. It's higher than that because 70% of screener interviews end up not resulting in a hire, and probably 50-70% of on-sites don't. I think the last estimate I saw was about 50 hrs of interviewing total per hired candidate, and that feels about right to me.

7 interviews just for the hired candidate (1-2 screeners, 5-6 on-site pool interviews.) Maybe less than 7 hrs if they're cut to 45 mins each.


In that case, it's not an amortized cost of the time it takes to interview each person that comes in the door.


Googling someone is a longer process than an in-person interview?


Googling someone is not even close to as effective as paying for real background check services, which can be very costly and take days or weeks. For example, how can you be sure that your new employee didn't change their name after committing a crime? How do you know if the John Smith applying to your open position is the same one as the murderer in some article? Google searching isn't good enough for these cases or any company that takes pre-employment screening seriously. Source: Me. I work at an employment screening company.


Do professional background checkers use the same public sources more exhaustively or do they have special access to private databases and other sources?


They don't have to do the actual bg check though, just ask you do you have a criminal record. If you say no, then they do the check at the end and you do, you get passed over for lying, not for having a record. This is how many low paying front line jobs have always hired.


To remove the risk of potential lawsuit of course.


> It's not clear to me why it's not troubling to European citizens for their government to be in charge of what information is and isn't relevant to the public. Whenever I ask people about this, I get the response "well, that's why we have courts." I dunno, Europeans must trust their courts a lot more than I trust mine.

I think we trust our governments much more than US citizens trust there government. There's a line from Ronald Reagan that goes something like:

"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

The great preponderance of people in Europe simply do not think like this. For a huge range of issues that statement would actually sound reassuring in Europe. Essentially, if you believe in the rule of law and democracy, the government is simply ourselves, getting collectively together to fix something.

Note that this doesn't mean we like any particular politician. We despise many politicians. But the idea of government as a force for good still remains in Europe as far as I can see (UK). Sometimes I think the difference between Europe and the US is that we despise our politicians and quite like the non-political part of our government (civil service, NHS, etc). The US appears to hate the non-political part of it too.


> Note that this doesn't mean we like any particular politician. We despise many politicians. But the idea of government as a force for good still remains in Europe as far as I can see (UK).

Coincidentally, this is how most Americans seem to feel about their government's foreign policy.


> Essentially, if you believe in the rule of law and democracy, the government is simply ourselves, getting collectively together to fix something.

Rule of law being the key part. The U.S. has no rule of law, and our legal system doesn't punish those in power or those with money. For some relevant reading, I recommend Greenwald's book, With Liberty and Justice for Some.


Because that never went badly for the people of Germany and Poland.


Non-political part of government? That sounds like an oxymoron to me. Nothing that sucks away your tax dollars isn't political to the politicians.


> I dunno, Europeans must trust their courts a lot more than I trust mine.

Well, there are some fundamental differences in how we do law in the EU, compared to the US.

We don't do the "jury of peers" thing (and I'm still not sure if this if really true or just stories/TV but, aren't juries specifically selected to have no background in the case matter, or legal matter?). Further, it's not unheard of that the judges and lawyers have technical knowledge for technical cases, or at least read up about it. Moreso than the EU-politicians that made the ruling, anyway, hence deferring to courts to sensibly applying the rulings. There seems to be a "you need to be rich in order to get justice" sentiment that I head Americans openly admit to as the status quo, and what I get from the news. This seems to be a bit less severe in the EU (at least in the Netherlands, that I know of). Certainly, expensive lawyers do increase your chances (unfortunately), but it's not a requirement, and if the law is in fact on your side, an affordable lawyer will do, too. And in addition to that, the "if the law is in fact on your side"-part is also easier to determine beforehand and carries a lot less risk, because of the differences between Common Law (US and most English-speaking countries) and Civil Law (rest of the world, basically) legal systems. Basically it means we codify most of our laws into law-books, using a rather standardised form of "legalese". Because of this, we don't do "precedence" like in Common Law systems. Instead we have "jurisprudence", which is a similar idea, but is used by judges as a guideline in cases where reality is ambiguous with respect to the codified law, so to speak.

Now, I didn't really study law, except for a single course (crash course into IP/tech law, part of my CS curriculum) a decade ago, and stuff I read on Wikipedia. So some of the above might not be 100% accurate, and the conclusions are obviously my opinion. But even then, that's at least some reasons to place some trust in our courts :)


> And in addition to that, the "if the law is in fact on your side"-part is also easier to determine beforehand

I do think that American courts have a problem with this, and I do wish Americans cared more about it. It's fairly standard to hear people over here talk about whether or not something is legal and say "Oh, but I'm not a lawyer, make sure you consult with one before making any decisions."

That always irritates me. Our laws ostensibly exist for the common people, not lawyers. It reminds me of the stereotypical olden churches where only a few people would get to read or understand the Bible. It feels dirty.


California's constitution alone is over 100 pages, never mind thousands of pages of other legal code as well as precedents. It's not that the laws are so complex, it's that they have to cover so much it's never going to be feasible for someone not doing it professionally to be an expert on it.

Folks say "you should consult with a lawyer" when the topic is something that's too obscure or marginal to be obvious to a non-lawyer... that doesn't mean the laws are overly complex, just that there are always going to be marginal situations.


This is why common law annoys me. Possible recedent from any tiny case any time? That’s sure to help only one thing: an industry of legal workers since no one can actually know the law without doing endless research.

I absolutely love how our laws are relatively small, how precedent is from the Supreme Court only, and how most people don’t have any contact with lawyers in their entire life.


Sorry if I was unclear, I’m talking about how US law annoys me (it does affect me despite not living in the US, e.g in terms of prices on goods from legal overhead in the US) and how I like that my non-US country has precedent from a Supreme Court and no one knows a lawyer because there almost aren’t any (probably much for that reason - law is rather simple)


Sorry, are you talking about the US or another country?

We have elements of common law in the US code, and you can definitely have binding precedent that doesn't involve the Supreme Court. As for most folks not having any contact with lawyers... I'm not sure I've met any adult who hasn't.


> Our laws ostensibly exist for the common people

That's how US Constitution was written (not that it helped a lot - there's still hot debate about what "abridging the freedom of speech" or "to keep and bear arms" means). But most of the other laws are about as readable to the common man as a patch against dense APL code is readable to a seven year old. You may encounter some words you think you recognize. And then there are bylaws and regulations, which most people don't even know exist and some are impossible to get without paying money (yes, really). And then in common law system there's caselaw which is court decision having the power of law. Common man has the chance of a snowball in a nuclear reactor.


Well some of us "europeans" and I would bet 99.9% of Americans have issues with the Napoleonic political inquisitorial based systems


UK & Ireland still does trial by jury for a lot of trials. So it's not as straight forward as everyone in Europe/EU doing it the same


There's one big difference, and it's Orwellian -- courts and politicians are claiming that removing something from a search engine isn't censorship.


Yup, essentially "we're not blocking any content, just blocking any means for you to find it".


As I understand it, Google only blocks this stuff for searches from the EU. So all you need is a VPN with a non-EU IP address, and you can find whatever. Right?


While valid, only a fraction of the population would know to do this, and then a smaller fraction would believe it's worthwhile. It's an added inconvenience that has to outweigh the disadvantages of not doing it.


You're missing an even bigger issue. How would know that your search results are missing something in the first place?

You're not going to use a VPN to search "from another country" unless you already know or suspect something but can't find any information on it and suspect the reason is because you are searching from the EU rather than the USA!


Google says so at the bottom of the page if results have been removed for your search


True. And thanks for confirming my supposition. It's rare to see this mentioned in coverage of the issue. For reasons that are understandable, I guess.

The EU has pressured Google to censor its results globally, as I recall. But Google has prevailed on that, at least. So far, anyway.


Further if Europe can ask for info to be censored what happens when 100 other nations ask the same for their own reasons. Will the search index be composed only of data that is acceptable to all parties?


When EU dictates what can be in the search index it is "right to be forgotten".

When China or Russia does it, it's at least "censorship", and probably also "dictatorship".


Well, Google already left China.


Yes, that is a foreseeable outcome.

But Google would probably say "no" to many of them.


Even if Google can resist the EU about global censorship, small search engines can't afford to.


Or they just don't do business in the EU. Lots of US businesses (and, for that matter Chinese, Japanese, etc.) just do business in their home countries. To the degree the EU makes it too difficult for certain types of businesses to operate there, they won't. It's a big market but it's not that big. If businesses can pull out of China because they can't reasonably operate there, they can pull out of Europe.


True.


You are correct, and they will likely change that or face heavy fines, now that they have lost this case.


Really, over this one little case?

That would suck.


It's been going on since 2010 in the Costeja case

and they lost the case in 2014 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Spain_v_AEPD_and_Mario_...), and 'interpreted it' as 'we'll just limit the results from Europe'. This was a landmark case, and they just keep losing them.


What stops them from continuing to interpret it that way?

Edit: So yes, I see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/respect-european-law-goog...

So what, Google could nuke all of its business operations in the EU, I suppose.


For now.


That and answering questions isn't considered speech when the thing answering is a search engine.


I’m a guy who builds search engines incorporating some human curation and editorial policies, ... I’m pretty sure I could make a strong case that the 1st Amendment covers me in the US.


To be fair, those are two different things.


The end result is the same -- people are less informed.

In general it is always impossible to have this conversation because the idea of "free speech" is very different in America compared to Europe.


well even if it is not. it's just so easy to just search another engine. it actually got easier to identify people who wanted to hide stuff.


What other engine? As far as I know there are only a handful of search engines. Everyone else gets their data from these engines. Google, Bing, the French one. Probably one or two more.


Discriminating on the basis of spent convictions is illegal in the UK (where this ruling took place).


Oh cool, I didn't know that. Thanks for commenting.

Is there something I'm missing about Right to be Forgotten then? Why is this needed if it's already illegal to discriminate against someone over minor crimes or scandals?

Does the law not have much teeth or something?


Right to be forgotten can apply to anything where a private business has my data.

Case-in-point: Facebook. Most people don't believe that when you ask a company like Facebook or Google to delete your account, they actually delete your data. Sure, you no longer have access to it, definitely, but most people seem to assume that it's not entirely gone.

RTBF ensures that companies whom you provided information to delete this information if asked to politely.


I was hoping that it would be narrowed.


Or if I'm, say, a convicted con artist I can hide that fact from my future victims, making any future crimes significantly easier...


Or if I'm, say, a lesbian activist I can request the doxxing of my activities be hidden, so that I may live without persecution.

Or I'm a, 18 year old caught in a Romeo & Juliet, with my face plastered across Facebook as a "sex offender", but it's later overturned (or, as I call it, sanity prevailed). Should I have a right to be forgotten?

Or... the list of possibilities continues.


I'm not trying to argue the respective pros/cons. OP just asked for an example of when RTBF would be a good thing excluding in the case of criminals.


This is a big point of confusion. A background check will check the court records, where your convictions will still be listed (unless protected from disclosure e.g. California background checks generally don't show convictions > 7 years https://www.goodhire.com/california/background-checks).

A real con artist can just fake someone's ID, for them it's pretty trivial.

The issue is less than 1% of convictions ever make it to the Internet, and those people currently will be stigmatized forever, unlike the other 99%, unless they have this mechanism. Google's plea was 'we will self police, but we won't tell you how. We will ignore court orders, because we choose to'. The court objected to that approach.

If you are convicted of new crimes, no matter how long ago, then your sentence may be significantly increased as a repeat offender.


I guess it depends where you live. In my country faking IDs is hard as we use biometric documents and it's a very serious crime, so many small time tricksters will not do that. There's a tone of small online merchants, lousy businessmen, crooks, etc. pulling small tricks on people - taking money and not providing anything in return, or providing really bad service, or you order one thing and they send you something else. Since CC payments are still not that common here and it's not uncommon that you wire your money to the merchant and then you're not covered by usual money-back guarantees from the bank and visa, and you need to complain to them and threaten to sue them and then they usually give you money back after a few months, using it meanwhile for their own profit. They do that on purpose. However, if you know better usually you can google them and find people complaining about being tricked, so you can avoid falling in the trap. I'm not talking about big media news, but usually forum posts or tweets and things like that, and you can't find those ever without a help of google. I do this every time I buy something online from a local seller. Since this is EU, if this right to be forgotten becomes a common law they'll be able to completely cover their tracks and I see that as a real-life problem for me and many others here.


You don’t always know why companies discriminate against a potential employee. They don’t just tell you why they refused to hire someone.

So, employers don’t get access to criminal records, and generally, newspapers can’t republish information about people in a way that would harm their life today. Even criminals whose cases were public when they went into jail have a right to a normal life after they’ve finished their sentence – sometimes this is included with a change of name, but ideally, it’d be better if we, as society, would just forgive, or forget.


Tell that to a celeb that the press decides to monster - Cliff Richards case vs the BBC is a current example.


While it's generally an offence to disclose spent convictions, the press is still free to publish details about them. Right to be forgotten means that those looking for such articles are unlikely to find them.


Where's a valid technological problem? I see the problem being that there's true information out there that is unpleasant to somebody, and that somebody wants to force others to not be able to access that information. It's not a technological problem. It may be a societal problem (e.g. we are supposed to forgive and forget, but instead we obsess over a mistake somebody made 30 years ago) but I don't see how it is a technological problem.

> solved more elegantly by creating anti-discrimination laws around criminal records

Such laws have a terrible record. What happens in reality is not that company says "screw it, we'll take a risk of hiring a criminal since we can't run a background check" but "we'll use next available statistical heuristic for being a criminal and if you have it we won't let you nowhere around 90% - we'd fail you much earlier and we'd build the process in a way that you can prove nothing". And if you're familiar with statistical heuristics they'd use - and note they're not trained statistician so they wouldn't go into such details as "bad sign for the whole population but good sign for this particular tiny subgroup", especially if they hire for a position where they have a large pool of candidates - you can imagine how discriminatory it would be in practice.


>> Where's a valid technological problem? I see the problem being that there's true information out there that is unpleasant to somebody, and that somebody wants to force others to not be able to access that information.

I feel it is basically a cultural issue. Many Europeans (including me) believe that the "right to be forgotten" is real, i.e. we want that right. Company with american cultural roots feels differently, so there's a clash. The main problem is that Google doesn't want to submit to our European culture; which is fine, they can fight in court.


I’m an European and I’m completeley against this kind of censoring. Europe is not homogenous, don’t generalize. And this right to be forgotten is not a “human right” it’s a second chance, a gift, that should be given cautiously. Next time some polititian will want something to be forgotten.


> Next time some politician

We had that in Russia since 2016, and your guess how it works is exactly correct (e.g. see Skrynnik vs Yandex case).


If they declare it a right then it's a right. That's all that word means.


No, actually that's not what the word means. Otherwise you'd have no rights outside of what "they declare" - i.e. if "they" don't say you're human, you are not human and you have to agree with it. Nobody really believes in that.


Depends a lot of European constitutions seem to be based on you plebs have the rights "we as in the king or other ellites" give you not inalienable rights.


Oh, there's nothing wrong with wanting to control other's thoughts and actions. I want everybody to give me money, for nothing, just out of sheer love to me, and execute every wish I have, quickly and eagerly. Believing others have an obligation to do it and you can use governmental coercion to force it and calling it "right" indeed sounds kinda bizarre. But then again, a lot of things in contemporary Europe look kinda bizarre to me...


Thanks - it's helpful to hear your perspective on this.

What I don't understand though, is how this is supposed to help. If you want a fact to disappear, shouldn't you work that out with the publisher? Until you do that, it isn't really forgotten... just kind of badly remembered. I mean, people can still access that story as long as it's on the internet.


you can be affected even if you did nothing illegal, say you were young and stupid and you were in some camp X(like a political party, or some gaming group, or some sect), then for some reason this things happen:

- the fact you were member of X and you done some comments gets a good Page Rank

- X becomes very unpopular, people that believed in X ideology are seen as idiots,racists,violent

- you got older and smarter and you realized your mistake

- you made some other good things during your life, like maybe won chess tournaments, volunteered,donated to charities,raise children

And the problem will be that your mistake will be on the top results on web search wile your good stuff will probably not be online or if it is will be on 3rd or 4rd web search page(the even where you won the chess competition has a bad page rank)

Many issues you can say are a society problem, like a murder, you can argue that the society is at fault for creating them, allowing guns, drogs, bad education.

So for this problem I think there should be some technical solution for affecting the page rank of some pages on Google or other searches in some conditions, and now we need to find some fair conditions when this should happen, maybe google could fix the algorithm to not give such a big page rank to this kind of stories in general.


Again, not a technical problem. If you think people shouldn't concentrate on what somebody did then they were young, Google has nothing to do with it. We can witness in US politics both how people are forgiven for being prominent KKK members and for drowning a woman while driving drunk and then fleeing the scene - and these people not just not become pariahs - they become an important politicians with millions voting for them. On the other hand, we witness high school shenanigans dug up and dissected, decades after, on TV and mass media. All these happened before Google even existed. We as society are capable both of forgiveness and of extreme un-forgiveness, if we want to. We can choose either, or do both, depending on our preferences. In either case, Google has nothing to it.


I don't like either search engine right to be forgotten or anti-discrimination laws. Does the problem really need to be solved?


The problem with this is they ask you up front on your application for most jobs whether you have been convicted of a crime. If the answer is yes, generally your application is thrown in the trash. If you lie and they catch you, they have grounds to reject you.


San Francisco was one of the few places in the world to try to address that with it's 'ban the box ' initiative. Crimes must be relevant to disqualify a candidate. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/...


As I recall, the effect of this was reduced hiring of black and Latino candidates, which employers used as a proxy for criminality.


It's the law in the UK (and presumably similar in the rest of the EU).

Every conviction must be declared for a small number of years if asked. After that period it must only be declared if you're applying for a sensitive job (e.g. school teacher) and it resulted in a custodial sentence.


If you were to game this system you'd have incentive to lie, just in case they don't catch you. Companies could just ask candidates for the criminal record. This is actually common practice in Europe.

Former cons should be able to get a job, otherwise they'll just end up in jail again. If it's white collar crime then they could be just temporarily barred from that profession as part of the sentence.


Everyone knows that govt. forcing decency down corporate throats leaves everyone unhappy, it is a compromise after all... Though techies seem to forget the same logic applies to them as well, especially when they push boundary after boundary.


It’s an individual right and it applies to all controllers and processors . So in this instance to all sources where it’s not public record.


Because I don't want a company to be criminally disallowed from rejecting former criminals.

There are some jobs where that matters.

What I want is for companies to NOT, outright reject someone because of a google search. After the person is 90% THROUGH an interview process, and the company has spent significant amounts of resources interviewing someone, THEN they can reject them.

The problem isn't rejection for a potentually valid reason. The problem is the immediate instant judgment without giving someone a chance.


Except of course that is not how it works. Almost every country has a way for companies who have a legitimate need to query the government for a 'clean past' on citizens.

That you can't get that question answered through Google is actually good. Just think about it: anybody can add content to Google, and making you look bad is as simple as making a page with a bunch of stuff about you that isn't actually true. And in the age of Google-without-checks that's how it works: a quick Google search has taken the place of a much more thorough background check for important positions and instead it is being applied to pizza delivery people as well.

The reocities project got a lot of mail over the years and a couple of the cases that stood out for me were people that had been targeted by individuals that had gone out of their way to make their lives much harder to the point of some of them thinking of ending their lives. And then there were all the childhood follies that people would rather have the internet forgets.

The 'right to be forgotten' is as much about being in control of the narrative about ourselves as anything else, and that there is some level of recourse here is good: the judge carefully weighed the evidence and decided in favor of the party that brought the suit, it could have gone the other way too.

It is also quite funny to me that on the one hand people argue that those who break the law and pay the price should then be forever haunted by this but at the same time hold corporations to a different standard by allowing them to break the law on an ongoing basis because it suits their purpose.


> Almost every country has a way for companies who have a legitimate need to query the government for a 'clean past' on citizens.

Seems to me that's an opportunity for regulatory capture: politically-connected companies end up permitted to check on potential employees, while upstarts and outcasts don't — giving an unfair advantage (assuming the hiring criminals is a disadvantage) to the well-connected firms.


The only ones with legal access to your criminal record are law enforcement, courts and yourself. Minor crimes are also erased off what is handed out to you after a while. Companies can just ask you for it as part if the job application.


>It's not clear to me why it's not troubling to European citizens for their government to be in charge of what information is and isn't relevant to the public. Whenever I ask people about this, I get the response "well, that's why we have courts." I dunno, Europeans must trust their courts a lot more than I trust mine.

I trust the European courts more than I trust American advertisers.


> Explaining the decisions made on Friday, the judge said one of the men had continued to "mislead the public" while the other had "shown remorse".

Okay, great, so Google's now required to judge right to be forgotten requests based on whether the criminal has "shown remorse." Yeah, that's not arbitrary or even a little impossible to do at scale.

Let's grant that there are good cases for removing pages from a search index. If this is going to be the rubric, we should let the courts figure it out, and then an order should be issued to search engines to remove the content. This thing where you tell each search engine to remove content, the search engines decide based on, I dunno, court precedent or gut feeling or whatever, then you sue, then you appeal, I just don't see how that can work.

Eventually Google will just start granting every single request regardless of merit because being challenged will get too expensive.


This is the most ridiculous part of the whole "right to be forgotten" situation. The courts have completely abdicated their responsibility to control the process, instead forcing google (and apparently only google) to act as a court.

If the right to be forgotten is an important right that Eu courts want to enforce, they should actually enforce it. Not just tell google to get it right.


Yep. And keep in mind that Google can't just sit back and wait for a court to order something removed; Google has to pay Google employees to imitate these court precedents.


Yes, google can’t immitate the courts. So they just have to honor the request. Besidde people heavily intetsted Nopone gests hurt g


Wait. Nobody get's hurt when a politician asks Google to "forget" (fill in the blank), and Google just does it because they requested it? That's not right. Everybody gets hurt by that.


We're rapidly moving to a point where an official (government) criminal record is not important to folks you want to interact with -- landlords, employers etc. They will instead turn to Google. As such, Google might as well be the official record for many people.

And if one put themsleves in the shoes of a victim, or even a criminal who has served their time, Google's pagerank is doing them a disservice.

I don't know if expunging records is the right thing to do, but it's worth discussing. There's no guarantee that searching a criminal's name will bring up the recent history where they've done their time, shown contrition, and is contributing to society. Instead it'll be the most highly cited -- likely news about their crime.

As a society, we approve of jail being the mechanism to "forgive" a person's crime. As such, isn't it horrible that Google's pagerank will only turn up what they've done wrong in the past? Again, I don't know if expunging the records is the right thing to do (in fact I believe it's wrong), but I do think it's worth debating.


>As a society, we approve of jail being the mechanism to "forgive" a person's crime.

That's not really true. Serving prison time is neither a way to "forgive" nor a way to "pay debt back to society". Those are just common phrases some people use.

If felons were truly forgiven, they would have their right to vote restored. They wouldn't be denied a passport to travel abroad or denied a firearms license. Convicted felons of financial crime will be denied officer positions such as CFO in public companies. A sex felony will be a lifetime of reporting on the sex offenders registries.

Society has never perceived jail time as truly resetting the scarlet letter back to zero. Therefore, the debate is whether "Google results" is in the same bucket as "sex offender list". For many in society, they think it's wrong to remove those results from Google.


This is not how a lot of EU countries function - which is why there's friction there. The American "You are a criminal for life and will eternally be punished!" attitude is clashing with an EU mindset of being able to start a new life. Permanent records are hugely damaging for persons livelihood in these cases.


>Permanent records are hugely damaging for persons livelihood in these cases.

I agree and I'm not debating the harm that can be done. (My comment got many downvotes so I assume they think I believe felons should never be given a 2nd chance.)

No, my comment is specifically about the framework for arguing. I'm saying that phrases such as "forgive" and "pay debt to society" are unconvincing since society has never universally believed that. Consider even the EU country like UK where Google lost this case. If UK truly "forgives" crimes after a felony sentence is served, why do they have a sex offender registry? The parent I responded to is apparently based in Canada. Canadian border officers have denied Americans with prior DUI felony convictions from entering the country. That's another example of not being "forgiven". Also, Canada is another country with a sex offender list.

If we want to debate the "harm" to felons, then let's debate that. Do not use "forgive" in the text of the argument because it just leads to an inconsistency. Jail time is about punishment, not forgiveness.


It's about rehabilitation. And, despite all the exceptions, that is the principle under which European justice systems operate. Exceptions need to be justified politically, unlike felon disenfranchisement in the US which is seemingly unquestioned.


> why do they have a sex offender registry?

We have a Violent and Sex Offender Register: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violent_and_Sex_Offender_Regis...

It is not public, it exists to facilitate Police intelligence.


>It is not public, it exists to facilitate Police intelligence.

The "police intelligence" gives a misleading impression. Non-police residents can inquire about felons on the list because of Sarah's Law.[1]

In other words... "If I molested a child and served my 10 year prison sentence, I'm not truly _forgiven_ if people can check if I'm on a sex offender registry."

Therefore, don't use "forgive" as the framework. It should be clear that society really doesn't forgive and allow people a clean slate. If serving jail truly meant the "debt was paid to society", felons wouldn't be put on that list after jail was completed. Many defendents refuse a plea bargain of "guilty" because they don't want to be put on that list. To them, the lifetime sex offender list is worse than the jail sentence. It's an ongoing debt that's never repaid.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/find-out-if-a-person-has-a-recor...


It's clear you're not looking at this from a neutral perspective. Given that the situation is significantly different than you imagined and your view has not changed.

> Many defendents refuse a plea bargain of "guilty" because they don't want to be put on that list.

This is not the US.

> Non-police residents can inquire about felons on the list because of Sarah's Law

This is no different than an extended check which any company allowing you to work with children can carry out. The difference is here that vulnerable new partners of the person can enquire if they see fit.

It is about keeping people safe, not punishing people. It's literally a criminal offence to reveal information about someone having to sign the register.


Yeah, I think that the EU is right in this regard, and I wish a similar principle existed in the US. But I was surprised that the EU court in this case ruled against one person simply because he served a 4 year sentence. His case was more than a decade old, and it was non-violent and non-sexual.

It seems like an inconsistent application of this principle. Sentences are often based on the amount of money involved. So while embezzlement by a CEO at a small company may well result in smaller losses and shorter prison sentences, the intent and conduct is exactly the same as a similar case at a larger company. If the smaller company CEO has a right to be forgotten, so does the larger one.


If you read the article it was a bit more nuanced than that. The one who had the right to be forgotten denied had a track record of misleading people about his conviction. The court (rightly, in my view) took this behaviour as evidence that his conviction remained relevant in a way that it was not for the other person (described as showing remorse). They didn’t just measure the length of the sentence.

IMHO, this is an encouraging, nuanced development. There has to be a balance between protecting people against serial offenders and rehabilitation.


I did read the article, but it simply said that the person had “continued to mislead the public”. At the very least I’d need to know more to call this fair, as we have no idea what that very broad statement entails. Is there proof that he continued to mislead the public? Has he been convicted of other crimes since then? What standard of proof was used to make this determination? If, for example, he has simply explained his side of the situation that led to his conviction publicly, and some people found that “misleading,” I would say this isn’t fair. If he has been convicted of additional crimes, then I would call it fair. So it depends on the specific circumstances.


Since it’s a report of a U.K. high court case, I think it’s safe to say there was documented proof. I mean, you can read the court transcripts if you like, but UK judges aren’t in the habit of letting unsubstantiated claims into the courtroom.


In the article it is said that he tried to mislead the court also.


Is it up to Google's lawyers to do extensive investigations to find out that this guy had "a track record of misleading people"? What if Google decides they don't want to pay for that? Then all that nuance will be gone.


If google wants to ignore an erasure request for journalistic and public good/interest reasons, yes.

Responsible Journalism can’t ignore stuff like this, so I’m not surprised that the Judge would expect google, after making the journalism case, to demonstrate some of that attention to detail.


No, Google has the right to fight each such request in court.


This is basically an impossible burden to bear. If everyone who had anything whatsoever bad about them on the internet decided that the tiny burden of sending a letter was a worthy use of time then fighting the 1/10 which were the most dubious would ruin google financially.

This is like a network where you can cause a network to waste a GB of data by sending a KB of data.

The only reasonable response in that situation would be to invest only the money available to fight the worst of the worst requests and blanket accept almost everyone's request to silence anyone else.

If you turn it around and make a single request take a few thousand dollars worth of legal fees and many hours of work then worthless requests which are likely to be denied wont be bothered with but the most worthy may still be seen to.


Excellent, the law works as intended.


You want anyone to be able to silence anyone via a letter?


When the lie is essentially acting like the record was already expunged, that is a terrible reason to deny expungement. It's not quite catch-22 but it's getting close.


You're right and it makes sense but how is someone like Google supposed to handle these requests case by case? Or are they supposed to hire an army of lawyers and send thousands of requests to be decided by the courts?


Why not attack the publication rather than the card catalog?


Requiring the publication to make the change is more feasible. In a hypothetical defamation situation the courts in the US have made this costly to do. In a conviction scenario Google search results can prevent people from being employed. I had a relative of a friend which had a published DUI which made it difficult for him to seek employment years after the issue. Employers have the ability to find criminal convictions and decide whether or not to hire an individual. Almost everyone googles people prior to contact.


Can you not change your name in the EU? Seems like someone changing their name would be able to solve some of these issues.


Why should you be forced to do that?

I mean, you're assuming two things:

- That people who want their data removed are criminals. That's hugely not the case. Does a teenager who was plastered all over social media / newspapers have to change his/her name because someone targeted abuse at him/her?

- Even if they were jailed for a transgression, they paid their part to the socienty. For serious transgressions, the authorities keeps tabs on them. For non-serious things, why does it matter? They paid their part.


GP is not assuming anything. Literally the first paragraph in the post:

> The man, who has not been named due to reporting restrictions surrounding the case, wanted search results about a past crime he had committed removed from the search engine.

Any example of somebody being abused/targeted and Google refusing to remove them from search results? The only cases where they fought back were people trying to hide their criminal record (most often politicians, white collar crime).


This depends on the country. UK? No problem. France? Extremely difficult: https://www.wikiprocedure.com/index.php/France_-_Change_Your...

You need to convince a judge that you have a "good reason". France has only recently loosened its restrictions on what names people are allowed to have.


In some countries that's very hard to do. But why should you? If you committed a crime and spent your time in jail, why shouldn't you get a second chance? There are certain jobs that you cannot take depending on the crime you committed (esp working with children) but for most jobs it should be absolutely irrelevant if you committed a crime in the past.


Varies by country. Germany normally forbids changes except by marriage/divorce (I think), while the UK doesn’t really have legal names, just lots of databases run by people who want an official-looking document before they update anything (and even then my university will just refuse to reprint degree certificates with a new name).


I (an EU citizen) want to keep my right to think whatever I want about a criminal - and that includes looking at or keeping records. I feel like this 'right to be forgotten' hurts my safety - I don't want to forget that someone murdered someone or raped someone, these things are unforgettable and definitely unforgivable - and I want to know about them, and I want employers to be able to look them up.


No one is getting murder or rape convictions removed from the record. This is considerably smaller scale stuff, and the story itself mentions that two men jointly fought to have news of their conviction removed, one who got 6 months in jail, and one who got 4 years, both non violent white collar type offenses, and only the guy who got 6 months actually won. The second guy lost.


>No one is getting murder or rape convictions removed from the record.

Story about German murderers suing to get their names removed from a Wikipedia article about the victim. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/us/13wiki.html?_r=0


Not a particularly good example considering the names are still on both the German and English language articles.


But German courts ended up ruling against them.


It's almost as if judges aren't stupid.


Yes, treatment should be always the same - the records stay. Two things though - many thigs that are considered a crime shouldn't be a crime, and second, if the crime is minor or irrelevant, the record won't hurt the person, otherwise it's a proof that it's not as irrelevant as you think. For example in my country, you will get even parking offenses (repeated, but still) written in your record. It hurts nobody because nobody cares.


> if the crime is minor or irrelevant, the record won't hurt the person, otherwise it's a proof that it's not as irrelevant as you think

Let me tell you a little thing called marijuana possession charges and how they make students ineligible for student aid and government loans/grants. Even getting charged with possession of a single joint is enough to bar a student from receiving aid or loans. Such charges or convictions are the reason employers turn people away all of the time.


Yes, that's why I said that many things shouldn't be a crime.


Agreed that any special divergence between types of crimes is wrong.

But I can get behind the use of judge discretion.


But your ability to do that may be directly infringing on the ex-convict's right to make a living or feel safe themselves


The GDPR does not apply to records kept for personal purposes. If you want to scour the web on a regular basis and write down all the names of criminals in a notebook, then you are still free to do so.


I don't care about personal purposes. I want employers to be able to look up their prospective employees.


Employers can already request that potential employees hand in a certificate from the authorities that they have no relevant convictions in Germany. (Führungszeugnis) All convictions past a statutory limit are not listed. There’s an extended version for especially sensitive positions (working with children, security sensitive positions,...) that lists convictions that are no longer part of the normal official limit.

That’s truly enough for employers.


[flagged]


Have you ever heard of contracting?


"I feel like this 'right to be forgotten' hurts my safety"

A few years ago you had no such facility at all - how did you manage?


I was feeling less safe, that has improved. Why go back in time?


If anything, you were probably feeling safer without being connected 24/7 to all the problems in the world. I'm really skeptical you were more afraid of strangers because you couldn't access public records about them.


No, I'm feeling safer because employers are able to look it up and thus make better decisions. It has nothing to do with me looking up random strangers.


Employers don't look up candidates on google, they look up criminal records with the authorities. It has nothing to do with the right to be forgotten. It was possible before, and it will be possible in the future.


I don't know where you live but here employers aren't allowed to look up things other than what is provided by the applicant anyway. Googling the name and using that for hiring decisions is simply illegal. Just ask all the relevant and legally allowed bits in your application process.


Good thing we don't write law based on feelings. Were you _actually_ less safe? I highly doubt it.


The "right to be forgotten" is the natural end-game in the positive rights charade.

Now you have a right to dictate what will be in someone else's mind.


Is it possible that your feeling is entirely subjective and not backed by any statistics ?


Because it hurts innocent people.


Except you are not the justice system and it's not your call to choose who is bad or who is good.


Except that most people aren't removing those convictions. With your rigid midset you are punishing thousands of people who have been abused by social media and have done nothing wrong. Destroying their lives permanently.


Could you give me an example, please? I really can't think of a situation when a crime is so irrelevant that nobody cares (and thus the record isn't needed) and yet the record destroys lives (and that proves that people care, BTW) and thus must be deleted.


Low level dope fiend? Visiting a prostitute, or selling sex? I can think of a number of crimes, which are pretty much irrelevant for a character assessment.


This is extremely relevant for someone that was formerly a prostitute or drug addict. Even with laws in the US to wipe underage prostitution records there is still a major issue of people even knowing it exists. The people that get convicted of underage prostitution sometimes are trafficking victims. So in the US we are so harsh that we punish previous human trafficking victims indefinitely. It’s a balance. Employers have the means to identify those convicted of crimes.


Is google publishing articles about this? Or are they simply a card catalog? Want to be forgotten? Why not address the publisher of information and not merely the index of it?


These things shouldn't be considered a crime in the first place, and I asked for real examples. I won't turn down a candidate for my sw dev position because they used to be a prostitute.


HR will just filter out all candidates with a record to be on the safe side. They won’t evaluate if the record is relevant or not.


HR will also filter out candidates without an university (sometimes even specific, expensive ones) and you're not complaining about that. What about fixing HR instead?


> If felons were truly forgiven, they would have their right to vote restored.

This is a very US-centric attitude and very undemocratic in my view.

In Germany, for example, people in jail are generally allowed to vote. They could even set up a voting booth inside the jail if there were demand. However, there usually isn't and inmates vote by mail.

In the last 25 years, only 80 people, who were found guilty of treason, have lost the right to vote.

However, people whose sentence is at least a year in jail are excluded from running for office for 5 years.

> Society has never perceived jail time as truly resetting the scarlet letter back to zero.

Some jobs here require a so-called "certificate of conduct" which you can get from the police and which lists criminal convictions. The entries in this certificate expire after a certain number of years, depending on the the crime. The maximum time a conviction can be in the record is 10 years after it has been served. Afterwards, it's deleted. (It is not deleted from police records but from what a company could find out in a background check by going through official channels.)


80 people have been convicted of treason in Germany since 1993? More than 3 a year? That seems... shockingly high.

What were they doing? How many independent acts of treason was this?


I quoted the original number from a newspaper article which didn't go into details. But I was curious myself, so I contacted the author of the article and did some of my own research.

The German federal statistics office publishes a report every year which lists how many people have lost their right to vote or to hold public office according to §45 (2) and (5) StGB (German criminal law) [1]. Unfortunately, the reports do not distinguish between these two cases. In any case, the numbers are vanishingly small in recent years. I looked at the last 12 years for which there is a report (2005 - 2016) and it's only 15 cases, so a little more than 1 per year. Again, it doesn't distinguish between losing the right to vote and losing the right to hold office.

The people who lost their rights according to this law were mostly convicted for crimes against the state, the public order, or misconduct in office. To make it more precise, the report lists crimes such as joining a terrorist organisation, obstruction of punishment, forcing a subordinate to commit a crime, criminal assault while in office, corruption, etc. The original newspaper article summarized them as crimes against the state which I translated as treason.

However, it seems that the law was applied more often in the past. I found a secondary source [2] which lists 178 cases between 1978 and 2008. The primary source [3] is a dissertation which costs 80 €.

[1] https://www.destatis.de/GPStatistik/receive/DESerie_serie_00..., § 5.1

[2] Sonja Bühler, Die Aberkennung des aktiven Wahlrechts von Strafgefangenen nach § 45 Abs. 5 StGB, Freilaw 1/2017, http://www.freilaw.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/0...

[3] Jan Oelbermann, Wahlrecht und Strafe, Universität Bremen, 2011, http://www.nomos-shop.de/Oelbermann-Wahlrecht-Strafe/product...


That's a very US-based list. Many countries around the world do not remove citizen rights to the same degree the US does. Not all countries have a sex offender registry. There is a culture in the States of looking on incarceration as a penalty for crimes. Some countries look on it as a rehabilitation tool and manage lower recidivism rates.


My right to be safe from a rapist is greater than their right to not be on a registry. If they want to avoid being on a registry, then avoid raping people!


> My right to be safe from a rapist is greater than their right to not be on a registry. If they want to avoid being on a registry, then avoid raping people!

This is a problem that should be fixed with laws, not with Google.

In many places, an 18 year old who sleeps with a 17 year old is a "rapist". Someone who breaks into a house and forces them at knifepoint to have sex is also a "rapist". One of these is a much greater danger to society and that should be reflected in our laws. And, to a certain extent, it is. Many places have judicial procedures where the first kind of "rapist" can have that offense reduced to a lesser class of crime after some level of incarceration and probation. Google should not be allowed to unilaterally undo that.

We need to quit treating people who go to prison as if they have a scarlet letter even after they have served their time. If they are that dangerous, they shouldn't be let out. The problem is that, in the US, we want to incarcerate people but not pay money for doing so.


So generally, European "registries" are lists kept by police of people to keep an eye on.


If felons were truly forgiven, they would have their right to vote restored.

I have always thought that was outrageous. I think people should be aloud to vote even while they're in jail. The current system could allow a group to wipe out their political opponents by simply passing a law outlawing a common activity, then selectively enforcing it. I mean that's basically what the war on drugs was about.


In Canada the right to vote is inalienable, and so those citizens who are incarcerated can vote.

It's odd that the USA, which champions democracy, doesn't hold the right to vote as a universal and inalienable right of all citizens.


Not so odd historically; the enactment of disenfranchisement for all felonies (as opposed to particularly major or election-related ones) started in the South as part of the Jim Crow policies to disenfranchise Black voters. Together with the use of the criminal justice system to disproportionately target Black people, this allowed starts to disenfranchise those voters without an explicit racial reference in the law.


Some US States are working to turn this around and have introduced [edit to finish thought: bills to change it]. It will take a while. Given that many states used felony charges and laws that don't allow felons to vote to control minorities, it may take a long while indeed.

Wikipedia actually has an interesting map on the subject for the US (below the fold/ToC):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_disenfranchisement


Indeed. Under the European Convention on Human Rights it's forbidden to impose a blanket ban on all prisoners voting.

Unfortunately, some states (including the United Kindom) wilfully defy the ECtHR on this issue.


There's a big difference between allowing people in prison to vote, and in never allowing them to vote again after they are released. People in prison by intention don't have the same civil rights as normal citizens, and so withholding the right to vote doesn't seem unreasonable. Withholding it in perpetuity seems outrageous.


I don't think it's unreasonable to suspend the right to vote to some (or indeed to most) prisoners.

But I also don't think it's unreasonable to allow some prisoners to vote, especially where they are imprisoned for short sentences and where it is in the interests of rehabilitating them to do so.


I don't see the point, though, in taking the right to vote away from prisoners.

It's not like stabbing someone makes your opinion on taxes less valid. Or drug dealing makes your opinion of the education system invalid.

Even if you rob someone, your opinion that the poor (a.k.a. probably you) should be financially supported by the government is not less valid.

There can a point be made that you're not exactly participating in society while you're in prison, so if we act like politics always perfectly reflect people's current needs and don't cumbersomely shape over decades, then you could argue that they shouldn't be allowed to vote over other people's society, therefore should only be allowed to vote when they're going to be released in the next legislature period. But that's just not the case. A moron in presidency can and will negatively affect people's lives for a long time after he's gone.

Lastly, I suppose, if you view prison primarily as punishment, then taking away their right to vote just extends that.


that's basically what the war on drugs was about.

Nothing basic about it. The "War on Drugs", as we know it today, was literally started by the Nixon administration as a means to control liberals and minorities.[0]

0 - https://harpers.org/archive/2016/04/legalize-it-all/ (the money quote, by Ehrlichman, is in the second paragraph)


I was completely and utterly horrified when I learned that the US strips such fundamental citizenship rights—which ought to be inalienable—from felons. It’s really preposterous and gives lie to the whole idea of ”the land of the free”. And don’t get me started on those ridiculous sex offender lists...


> If felons were truly forgiven, they would have their right to vote restored. They wouldn't be denied a passport to travel abroad or denied a firearms license. Convicted felons of financial crime will be denied officer positions such as CFO in public companies. A sex felony will be a lifetime of reporting on the sex offenders registries.

You should be made aware that none of those happen in most EU countries. Most people here feel that things done in the US like public sex offender registeries are abhorrent.


The only country that I have ever heard about that does not forgive people's crimes after they serve jail time is the US.


Note that in many countries, the UK for example, you can vote and get a passport if you have a criminal record. I think it makes sense that this verdict was delivered in Europe where it seems the view on ex-convicts is a bit more generous than in America.


Felons CAN get passports in the US — just not while on parole.


There are 3 reasons to send people to prison: retribution (punishment), rehabilitation and removal (from society so they can’t commit any more crimes).

Now, should retribution be infinite? Is rehabilitation impossible? Should a criminal be permanently removed from society?

We generally answer no to these questions except in rare situations that are front-page news and enter popular vocabulary. That’s why Google is in the wrong here.

And they know it too - the only reason they want to do it is a few more ad clicks.


Mostly agree with you here but small nit to pick. There's no such thing as a firearms license in the United States. Felons lose their right to own (or even possess?) guns.


Depends on the state. For example, Illinois has Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) cards which are required for possessing firearms and ammunition. One criteria for obtaining a FOID card is not having committed a felony.


American society != every society

This doesn't happen in Europe. Part of the social contract over here is that criminals who have served their sentence have the right to have their fundamental rights restored. That in fact is the justification for punishment in the first place.

A society that takes on the authority to punish individuals must integrate these individuals after they have payed their debt to society. If they wouldn't the punishment would be arbitrary, cruel and serve no purpose.


Incarceration serves three purposes:

    1.  Removal of social offender from society
    2.  Rehabilitation of non-conforming individuals
    3.  Punishment enough to deter future offenders
There's a tangental argument about whether or not incarceration achieves these goals, but the social stigma from being incarcerated isn't the point of any of these goals, and is instead just a cultural byproduct.


Those are just bad ad hoc consequentialist justifications for incarceration. If you really believe that, you can justify life sentences for every minor crime. Since it keeps criminals off the streets and increases utility. Or you can justify having incredibly short sentences. Since the correlation with longer sentences and greater deterrents is pretty small. Criminals tend to think they won't get caught and have high time preference. And I doubt it's terribly effective at rehabilitation.

You can certainly justify discriminating against people with criminal records that way. It's by far the best predictor of job performance. High social trust is probably the most important aspect of a society. Letting known criminals get into positions of power is not an ideal way to achieve that.

The main reason we have prisons is justice. The basic human desire for fairness and consequences for wrongdoing. No one wants to see a murderer get away with it. Even if there is some compelling argument why punishment won't increase utility. For instance, people tend to strongly oppose having sentences done by statistical algorithms. That are vastly better at predicting recidivism than human judges. Because they feel unfair.

And that same desire for fairness is also why people prefer criminals get a second chance.


4. retribution One could see it as the motivation for a right to be forgotten: You have already been punished by law.


In Canada those citizens who are incarcerated retain the right to vote. The democratic right to vote is inalienable in Canada.


> Society has never perceived jail time as truly resetting the scarlet letter back to zero. Therefore, the debate is whether "Google results" is in the same bucket as "sex offender list". For many in society, they think it's wrong to remove those results from Google.

I mean, on the most basic level, a prior offense is an excellent predictor of a future offense. If I want to hire somebody to supervise women or children, I'd like not to hire somebody who (at any point in their life) victimized women or children, because it's not too much to ask!

I, for one, don't think a murderer should be forgiven. A murderer gets to live, and the victim is no longer alive, there is fundamentally nothing you can do to be forgiven for murder. To me, that is as it should be.

At very least, the perpetrator of a crime should not be left to decide whether or not I forgive him, and to enforce that through the courts.


I'd like not to hire somebody who (at any point in their life) victimized women or children, because it's not too much to ask!

And you should get that - by making an official request for those records, and presenting documents that show that the person is applying to your job which involves supervising women and children.

None of which requires it to be at the distance of a click.

I, for one, don't think a murderer should be forgiven. A murderer gets to live, and the victim is no longer alive, there is fundamentally nothing you can do to be forgiven for murder. To me, that is as it should be.

I, on the other hand, would rather not get robbed because your draconian policies left the murderer alive but unable to get a job.


> If I want to hire somebody to supervise women or children, I'd like not to hire somebody who (at any point in their life) victimized women or children, because it's not too much to ask!

Sure. But let's make that list formal, with recognised judicial ways of getting on it, and recognised judicial ways of getting off it, rather than just "this newspaper said it", which leaves people without recourse unless they can afford lawyers.


> and recognised judicial ways of getting off it

That would make sense if you were never guilty of it, but I disagree completely with the idea that somebody who has been ruled guilty (without a successful appeal) has a right to be forgotten only for having served their time.


It depends on the crime. Some crimes are serious and you'll never escape those. But most really don't need to be recorded for life. Rehabilitation is an important concept for a just system, because without it there's less incentive for criminals to remain free of crime.

> For adults, the rehabilitation period is one year for community orders, two years for custodial sentences of six months or less, four years for custodial sentences of over six months and up to and including 30 months, and seven years for custodial sentences of over 30 months and up to and including 48 months. Custodial sentences of over four years will never become spent and must continue to be disclosed when necessary.

This has been part of UK law since at least 1974. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/53

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rehabilitation_of_Offenders_Ac...


You know not everywhere is the US right?


Mark steal cookies, gets caught and serves his sentence in jail.

Now Mark is out, looking for a job as a JavaScript developer but when Mark is Googled to check about his involvement in OS projects and personal portfolio before his Github profile the article on CNN from 5 years ago is displayed and apparently Mark is a cookie monster.

Is Mark sentenced to never be employed again? Mark made a mistake but Is He really worse from all these people who commit crimes and never get caught or end up in the news?

Maybe the balance could be to not display Marks convictions until specifically asked for?

I don't say that I have the answer but I really don't understand the concept of unforgiveness.

Maybe we should approach all this from a utilitarian perspective? What's the utility of labelling Mark as a thief years after he paid for what he did?


"Maye the balance could be to not display Marks convictions until specifically asked for?"

This is basically the status quo before. But ... the employer is going to background check mark and find them anyway, because they are public record and available in easily searchable databases (see Lexis, etc)

In practice, this stuff simply doesn't affect any employment case (at least in the US). None of the right to be forgotten stuff allows you to avoid any of the above except the "easy google search" (which again, practically doesn't matter).

So the argument you make should be limited to that. (and i think it is entirely reasonable to question whether your neighbors, who won't background check you, but will search google, should find it)


To the employment case...

With the pre-Google system, at least Mark gets his foot in the door and has a chance to impress the prospective employer during the interview process. While his conviction may still impact his employment prospects, at least he has a fighting chance.

With Google in place, Mark never receives a call-back. The employer doesn't bother.

How much does this impact Mark in the real world? I have no idea. But, I'd prefer the non-Google system and avoid the potential of Mark never finding meaningful employment.


"With the pre-Google system, at least Mark gets his foot in the door and has a chance to impress the prospective employer during the interview process. While his conviction may still impact his employment prospects, at least he has a fighting chance." While this sounds like intuitive it is, AFAIK, wrong.

I'm pretty sure there are ssrn papers/etc on this, where they found that 99% of employers (or something ridiculous) had non-overridable policies, so in practice, no, there was no fighting chance.

I'd personally prefer a system where neither could be used after a cooling off period depending on crime.


Oof. I knew those policies existed. But if it’s truly 99%, out system is well and truly broken.


> With the pre-Google system, at least Mark gets his foot in the door and has a chance to impress the prospective employer during the interview process.

Would the companies start asking in their screening process "Have you been committed of crime before" and that would wash out all the benefits of censoring Google?


the employer is going to background check mark

Are they? I've been involved in hiring people, and I've never seen that. Is it common in the EU?


But you're not talking about forgiveness, you're talking about forgetting. Forgiveness is when we acknowledge mistakes and give them another chance, forgetting is when we erase mistakes. Perhaps instead of artificially limiting our own memory we should be looking to learn to better forgive people in the age of perfect recall.


Am I? Do the victims forget Mark? Do his friends and family forget what Mark did years ago? Are the criminal records also deleted?

You search For Mark Javascript, you are greeted with "You won't believe what Mark, a JavaScript Developer, did to steal cookies" headlines. A lot of the News is for-profit entertainment, it's not public record of Mark but public record of entertainment. The same "News" source might have omitted the news about Oliver the Cookie monster because he advertises a lot with them and they don't want to lose his business.

Maybe it's simply not his potential employers job to forgive Mark. The employer is put in such a position because he's exposed to information that's not his business in first place.


Basically, you can't hide the info from HR, we need HR to have a less extreme view of who is hirable and who is not.

Or maybe Mark shouldn't be anywhere near cookies anymore - unless he's shown he's been rehabilitated.


You’re an idealist, the world doesn’t work this way.

Mark paid his debt to society by time served. And if you want to not hire ex convicts, you simply ask for his criminal record. Is that not a possibility in the US?

Anyhow, Google giving you tabloids or other crap simply cannot be a reliable criminal record.

And note we’re talking of somebody that’s actually proven guilty in a court of law. What about people being the target of scandals that aren’t guilty of anything?


Sure, you can find out that information about him, eventually. But you might not find out the information IMMEDIATELY.

After the background check is completed, he may have already gone through your full interview loop, and impressed everyone, and you may just decide that you want to hire him anyway.

In a different world, you would have rejected him outright, without giving him a chance to prove himself.

I think this matters a lot.


And if you want to not hire ex convicts, you simply ask for his criminal record. Is that not a possibility in the US?

Yes, it's possible to get criminal records in the US. Almost all major employers do so.

But is it right? I have mixed feelings. If the crime might reasonably impact the job, sure. White collar criminal probably shouldn't ever be CFO or CPA or whatever. But, if somebody got in a bar fight in college, is that grounds to never hire them? By policy, many companies will not hire somebody with ANY criminal record, no matter how serious or how old.


Recently, some states have passed laws barring criminal record requesting for employment purposes.


If you’re referring to the “ban the box” campaigns in Sf/nyc et al, I believe those just prohibit asking on the application (so the candidate has a chance to win you over), not checking for a criminal record entirely.


Because if we know that he stole cookies before, he must axiomatically be considered less trustworthy around cookies than someone who has no history of treat theft.

That doesn't mean that Mark doesn't deserve a second chance at life. But it does mean that, for the first while at least, you are ill-advised to give him the keys to the room where the cookies are kept.


> Because if we know that he stole cookies before, he must axiomatically be considered less trustworthy around cookies than someone who has no history of treat theft.

For his entire life? Even if he was a teenager or young? Doesn't american society even consider something as simple as possibility of changing your behaviour in 60+ years of life?

I mean... half of my most successful highschoolmates, leading great companies and organizations, would be untrustworthy and unemployable by American logic since they smoked a bit of pot and got caught for it.


Smoking pot is not the same as theft. One is harmless to society, the other is not.


> Smoking pot is not the same as theft. One is harmless to society, the other is not.

With the current US system those both things will punish you for the whole life, even if you grow out of it. Even if its petty theft. Or large theft. Or a bit of pot. Or selling pot. Social media and background checks will damage your future prospects forever for a minor thing that doesn't make a difference in other societies.


Yet, some people have got a different point of view and think that smoking pot is not harmless to society.

Same thing and op's point of view and yours


Having a different point of view doesn't make it valid, you need a chain of reasoning with cause and effect.


I disagree. Someone who was caught stealing at the age of 18 shouldn't be excluded from jobs in their 30s.


What about at 18? 19? Why 30s?

You say you disagree, but even the parent suggests as much: "But it does mean that, for the first while at least,"

That's what I take their meaning as. That after you commit a crime, you have to prove yourself again, and that takes time. It's why you suggest 30s, and not 18. For a while after their crime, it would make sense to exclude someone.

On top of that, why so late? Why are you forcing your view that 30s is the earliest someone can trust someone again? Why not 18? Why can't a citizen decide to trust someone earlier than some arbitrary number?


> if we know that he stole cookies before, he must axiomatically be considered less trustworthy around cookies than someone who has no history of treat theft

You are confused about what the word "axiomatically" means. If this is an axiom, your system is easily proved inconsistent with reality. Person A is known to have stolen a cookie from the cookie jar when she was three. Person B, who has never stolen a cookie, brandishes a weapon and says "I intend to steal your cookies, so choose: your cookies or your life." Under your axioms, every person must trust person B more than person A with respect to whether they will steal your cookies.

Your argument is probabilistic, not axiomatic. There's a huge difference.


This isn't even true in law.

In most states (and the feds), evidence of prior bad acts is not able to be used this way.

"(1) Prohibited Uses. Evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a person’s character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character."


True in case law vs. advise for a private company to make hiring decisions?

Not at all the same thing. Actions have consequences, and we can't force companies to hire people they see as unsafe.


We can and have, in America at least. Companies used to think all black people were untrustworthy and women couldn't handle the responsibility of leadership. We didn't let them continue to discriminate like that


Race is a protected class [1]. Evidence of criminal history is not.

[1] https://www.archives.gov/eeo/terminology.html

"Protected Class: The groups protected from the employment discrimination by law. These groups include men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental handicaps. Every U.S. citizen is a member of some protected class, and is entitled to the benefits of EEO law. However, the EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women and minority group members."


The protected class didn't pop up out of nowhere. It wasn't a law of physics. We could easily change what is a protected class.

Additionally selected enforcement of laws has turned criminal convictions into a way to get rid of a statistically higher rate of minorities without saying that's why you are doing it. If I recall correctly that is the main reason that Massachusetts banned asking for criminal history on applications


I don't think we should make criminal a protected class. This would fail the sniff test for any legislator that doesn't desire to lose his seat next go round.


As the poster above you said, "We can and have,"

Where do you think this protected class came from?


Do you think its presently illegal to use criminal history to make a hiring decision?


> Not at all the same thing. Actions have consequences, and we can't force companies to hire people they see as unsafe.

That doesn't mean we have to provide them with the means to do it. No public information, no option to see someone unsafe because of that information.


> Is Mark sentenced to never be employed again?

The argument seems to be that because society does pass that sentence already, we who disagree should "fix" it by making sure society doesn't learn that Mark is a cookie monster.

Does that not sound backwards? If the answer to your question is really "no", then we wouldn't need to have this discussion.

I suppose I can see the argument that things are unfair to Mark because other people got away with stealing cookies without having it on the public record.


I agree that it’s backwards but it’s not realistic to expect that from now on people will act rationally and not dismiss without a chance for an explanation a perfectly capable coder, Mark the Javascript developer, simply because his crime ended up in the news.

News doesn’t cover all the criminals even if they are convicted. For the most part, It’s an entertainment and the editorial process can make Mark unemployable because his crime brought a lot of ad impressions but the wife beater never ended up on the news because wasn’t shocking or interesting enough.


This a perfectly bad example, because your example makes the reader's intuition pump in a certain way. Consider the alternative story where Mark is a wife beater. Would still come to the same conclusion? Or does it say something about Mark's character or his possible future behavior?


Even if that was his crime it shouldn't prevent him from getting a job. Forcing people to drop out of the labour market massively increases the chance of them committing another crime. Rehabilitation works best if you give people a second chance.


What's good for the society is not necessarily good for the individual.

Him getting a job is good for society, but I don't want to be the one shouldering the risk.

For the individual it's a high risk / low reward situation, so the rational decision is to pass.

Tragedy of the commons.


What risk? It's just easy to pass and assume that those who don't have News articles about are lower risk.

Not all crimes are reported on the News as it's for-profit entertainment business that needs to pick the most shocking/entertaining incidents and portray those in a way that more people share it.


Bayesian statistics, there are different priors.

The probability of a convicted person to do something criminal again is not the same as the risk of an random unconvicted person, just like the risk of a flood reoccurring in a previously flooded area:

> According to an April 2011 report by the Pew Center on the States, the average national recidivism rate for released prisoners is 43%.[2]

> According to the National Institute of Justice, about 68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison, and 77 percent were arrested within five years.

> According to a national study published in 2003 by The Urban Institute, within three years almost 7 out of 10 released males will be rearrested and half will be back in prison.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism


It's not that simple.

Some ridiculous percentage of startups fail, yet not all startups have the same risk of failure.

That's also why it's not a good idea to dismiss a candidate on a single criterion unless you're randomly hiring.


> Consider the alternative story where Mark is a wife beater

An unemployed and bitter wife-beater is a much greater risk of continuing beating his wife (and possibly kids) compared to a wife-beater who is employed. Also, and it pains me to say this, there is a really low correlation between wife-beaters and professional performance, and in today's world where most everything is oriented on results that matters. Case in point: John Lennon was a wife-better but he was also a very good singer and song-writer, so people focused more on his music talents than on his wife-kicking abilities. And his case is not the only one. Not saying that it was the right thing to ignore his private life when judging him, just mentioning the facts.


I would not object that you might be less sympathetic to some criminals than others but as far as I can tell criminal courts don't judge one's character.

Even if you claim that you can judge one's character by a mistake He/She did in the past, news organizations are not always accurate or might not portray the picture factually.

Maybe it's better if you ask Mark for past convictions and give him a chance to explain so you can judge his character in an informed way.


Chances are if he's a wife beater it won't be in the paper -- the vast majority of domestic violence cases aren't reported.


Also a good point, only the most shocking or entertaining crimes would be on the Googleable public record. Mark's misfortune is that stealing cookies was entertaining enough piece that passed the editorial.


> Is Mark sentenced to never be employed again?

This is not Google's fault and they should not be the one's being punished. If a government wants to have a say here they can, but in general society will act on information and you can't hide it from them.


I'm someone who once upon a time had a very bad trip after consuming some hallucinations, then freaked out and resisted when the cops attempted to arrest me. Local news heard the story and had a field day reporting on it. I served 3 months for it but now it will follow me around for the rest of my life. I'm not a bad person but one might get that perspective googling my name and there's essentially nothing I can ever do about that except try and manipulate the page rank and/or change my name. I appreciate that there are people out there like you that consider the views of people like "Mark".


Everyone makes mistakes, only some are punished and even less ends up as subject to the entertainment 'news' industry.

I hope you're doing well and I'm glad that you're not repeating your mistake.


The problem is future employers don't know if mark made a one time mistake or is a serial cookie monster. Why would they hire mark over a similar employee with a clean record?

Mark needs to be given the opportunity to demonstrate to an employer hes no longer a cookie monster. He needs to rebuild that trust.

He would do this by taking a lower than average pay, agreeing to periodic cookie-tests, and giving the employer the option to terminate his employment at any time without cause.

If mark really isn't a cookie monster anymore he should be fine with this precautions to minimize the company's risk - after a year or so when there is more trust these disappear.


If your criminal record is truly relevant to the job, then the employer should do the responsible thing and get a proper background check done. Which are factual and non-biased. Such things shouldn't be left up to google page ranking algorithms and media that tends toward sensationalisation. It's lazy and unprofessional.

> Why would they hire mark over a similar employee with a clean record?

Is it useful to have people with a history of low level crime habitually unemployable. Don't we want to reduce crime.

> Mark needs to be given the opportunity to demonstrate to an employer hes no longer a cookie monster.

Mark is innocent of further crimes until he is convicted and the employer would need to have reasonable cause to discriminate against him. We have parole and other such mechanisms where official bodies can decide how long a person needs to speed demonstrating they are no longer a criminal, and make sure the relevant people are aware of this. Why leave it up to some random employer armed with google.

> He would do this by taking a lower than average pay,

Why does he deserve lower pay. This is just enabling employers to take advantage of vulnerable people.

> and giving the employer the option to terminate his employment at any time without cause.

The employer has the right to terminate at any time for mark committing a criminal act. He doesn't need this. Plus this is europe and workers have rights


I don't like to break up arguments into tiny pieces and remark on each one - so I'll just wrap this up in 1 thought like a normal person.

You are essentially complaining about human nature. Here in reality people want to know if you've violated someone else's trust before trusting you. We are social beings and if you present two people - "This one betrayed a friend, this other one has not" - 99% of people will choose the later.

You will never ever convince a majority of people that someone who has demonstrated untrustability should be trusted the same as someone who has not. Regardless of how long he spent in a steel and concrete cage.


You misunderstand, I'm saying there are fair and professional ways to find out if someone is trustworthy. Googling their name, and finding some 5 year old article is not one of these. It presents a incomplete picture that is biased towards attention grabbing material from for-profit media. Use proper background checks and references.

There are also fair ways to deal with criminals, and staff you may not trust. Using google results as the bases of randomly deducting pay, removing employment rights, and other discriminatory acts, is not one of these. It would be far too easy for employers to abuse and doesn't lend itself to the employee having stability. This would just increase the chances of the employee returning to crime.


You are still arguing against human nature.

Give yourself a scenario - you have two equal candidates:

a) background check clean, no google results b) background check lists sealed conviction, no google results

you'll choose?

now another:

a) background check clean, no google results b) background check lists sealed conviction, google results says he stole some cookies

you'll choose?

Probably (a) both times. Unless in scenario B you can ask about his previous cookie conviction and pay him less and/or able to fire at any time.

By denying all potential information you sow distrust between a mutually consensual relationship. Do you think more or less convicts will be hired when you can't trust background checks to get all the relevant information.

In such a world gossip will replace google. "Did you hear about mark? Oh don't hire him I heard he murdered someone over a batch of cookies!"


This again misunderstanding what I'm saying. I'm arguing for background checks that allow employers to make reasonable decisions based on those checks show. and then act within the normal confines of employment law.

I've been through background checks for business, I'll probably have more in the future. They are extremely intrusive and uncomfortable, but I don't have a problem with them, because they are pertinent to the business, and conducted by professionals that are accountable for what they say about me and what they do with my information.

Google combined with any tosser that can put up a their side of a story on the internet is no substitution for a background check. This is a joke. People hitting the front page of google with my name are accountable to no-one. They aren't required to notify me, nevermind ask my permission to gather this information. They have no incentive to report back clear unbiased information

By conducting background research this way you sow distrust. It is not mutually consensual, controllable or fair. I wouldn't go near a company that was doing this without very good reasons. I have no problem with the EU making it difficult to abuse search tools in this way.


And once Mark rebuilds trust with company A, all is good. Until, that is, Mark decides to get a new job.

Once Mark goes to company B, they find the cookie monster article and make Mark completely rebuild trust from scratch.

Then Mark has to move, and goes to company C. The cycle repeats again.

Thus Mark is never able to truly get over the cookie monster incident.


Not true - if mark has a resume listing a successful employment post-cookie incident I would call them for a reference. A good reference isn't completely trustworthy but 2 or 3 of them with good companies and I'd be convinced.


You apparently live a privelaged life then. Laws are being passed in US states to prevent criminal history from being asked until an offer has been made precisely because people are not able to get over the result.

The HR pipeline treats any sort of checkered pass as and immediate rejection, whether or not a hiring manager would treat it as such


True - 100% true. If I had a checkered past with no references I would expect to get denied for every job I applied to.

To combat this prejudice I would fully expect to have to lower my expectations in the form of lower wage or other restriction. If I offer to work for half the normal pay not only will I definitely get hired but I'll get a good reference providing I prove myself capable and trustworthy.


Why would you get a good reference? Your boss can just always give a bad reference so that your forced to stay. After all he's getting cheap labor, and you have to risk never getting employed again.

You're coming at this from a viewpoint that implies that companies want to help people, when we are already dealing with that fact that they absolutely do not


> If mark really isn't a cookie monster anymore he should be fine with this precautions to minimize the company's risk - after a year or so when there is more trust these disappear.

The problem is that "mark" will be bogged down with that punishment for the rest of his life at every job he works, so the punishment doesn't fit the crime. Being a former "cookie monster" should not mean a lifetime of lower pay and fewer employment rights.

Facebook and Google's infinite memory, combined with all of our "zero tolerance" policies are going to make the United States a really crappy place to live in the not too distant future.


Not true - if mark has a resume listing a successful employment post-cookie incident I would call them for a reference. A good reference isn't completely trustworthy but 2 or 3 of them with good companies and I'd be convinced.


Two equal employees, that would be the eliminating point..


> The problem is future employers don't know if mark made a one time mistake or is a serial cookie monster. Why would they hire mark over a similar employee with a clean record?

Because for certain types of cookie monster, those who steal cookies, get caught, and serve their penalty are MORE trustworthy than the population at large.


This is not a realistic scenario: Pretty much all employers will just hire someone else.


If I was HR and I had a choice between a Javascript developer for 50k with a clean record and a Javascript developer with a 5 year old conviction for 40k - I'd actually pick the later. But only if I could fire him immediately if he turns out to actually be a cookie monster.


That's how HR acts in practice though. Especially with automated tools, checking off a "have you ever had a prior conviction" box just gets you an automated rejection without a human ever looking at it


Yes a lot of companies do. Especially minimum wage jobs. Because there are vastly more people without a record willing to work. But now imagine you have a previous conviction but you are willing to work for less than minimum wage?

If I value a fry cook for $10 an hour and I get 1 person with a previous conviction who wants to work for $5 - I'll hire him in a heartbeat so long as I could fire him at any moment. And since I'm a good employer I'll make him a deal to pay him $10 an hour after 6 months provided he stays clean and works hard.

As it stands I'm not allowed to do any of that - so the convict remains unemployed and will probably commit more crime just to survive.

I'll let my man Friedman take it from here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca8Z__o52sk


That's just going to make a space underclass. There's not a benefit to convicting people because hey, cheap labor. The same forces are already happening with prison labor.

What you are suggesting is that any single mistake is now a permanent albatross around a person's neck and a reason for them to be permanently deprived. In a society where we have so many laws that everyone breaks several a day, this just leads to selective enforcement and corruption.


Where I live they aren't allowed to ask anymore, I think. But they'll likely find out on a quick search.


Don't employers use actual background checks for this, though? With rules for what stays on the record and what disappears after a set number of years?


Appeal to CNN. They’re the ones that published the info. It happened. Can’t change that. It’s up to the employer to decide if it is relevant or not. Hiding the fact doesn’t change that it happened. The reaction to what happened is the responsibility of the employer — it certainly isn’t Google’s job to make judgements.


> They will instead turn to Google

Whew, good thing they wouldn't instead turn to newspapers or libraries, we might have to have information removed there too (or the microfiche or card catalogs respectively). It's unfortunate that ease of access is the primary motivator and we can't just stand on principles. I believe society would adapt, but yes factual information at your fingertips has positives and negatives as do most freedoms.

Who knows what type of medium may arise that allows people to see unfettered factual information. But if people start to make judgments on it, I suppose we better be prepared to have it censored.

To me it reads "we can't control how people judge your information in some forms, so we'll make it harder for people to get information in the first place".


Online newspapers are being directly censored by "right to be forgotten", there are people having their names removed from newspaper site search engines.


> As a society, we approve of jail being the mechanism to "forgive" a person's crime.

That's not what 99% society believes. The vast majority of regular people (go on the street and talk to any random person, I guarantee you this is what they'll say) will say that life-time ostracizing is actually part of the sentence. They honestly believe that once you commit a felony, anything bad that happens to you for the rest of your life is fair game. They pretty much believe that the official jail sentence is only the beginning, and that even in jail if you get killed it's pretty fair because you were already one of those criminal-types anyway, so oh well no big loss. I've met so many people in jail who were hardened into a life of crime because of the us-vs-them attitude they've been faced with since young adults and even as teenagers, simply because they made one mistake early on, and now they're labeled and discriminated against even by judges and their own lawyers, let alone citizens. People want there to be rehabilitation and re-entry into society, and there are programs out there, but none of them are actually effective (trust me), and the vast majority of society don't want them to be effective. So everything is status quo.


If this is the case, then the government should pass laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of criminal record. Instead they've passed the puck (rather badly) to Google.

And it's not like Google is the only way to find things. Should newspapers be required to delete pages about an individual or destroy print copies? What about other search engines such as Yandex or Baidu? Of course anyone could just search on Google.com, too.

Mankind has done perfectly well without a "right to be forgotten" for hundreds of thousands of years.


> Mankind has done perfectly well without a "right to be forgotten" for hundreds of thousands of years.

On the other hand, mankind has done perfectly well without computers, an internet, or indeed indoor plumbing for hundreds of thousands of years.

Sometimes new technologies demand new responses.


They have started to pass laws. The GDPR covers the processing of criminal convictions here: https://gdpr-info.eu/art-10-gdpr/

While mankind has not needed a right to be forgotten previously, it didn't have the omnipresent Google to deal with either. These are just the opening shots in the Privacy battle that will spread from GDPR.

Other search engines are affected too, but Google has a massive market share and has a long litigation history in Europe.


> government should pass laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of criminal record

They did. https://www.gov.uk/exoffenders-and-employment

"It’s against the law to refuse someone a job because they’ve got a spent conviction or caution, unless it’s because a DBS check shows that they’re unsuitable."

> Mankind has done perfectly well without a "right to be forgotten" for hundreds of thousands of years.

Mankind has done without total digital records of everyone's life, too. Now that we have those records, are they going to be used to make people's lives worse?

I feel this would be less controversial if it was "right to be de-indexed": finding a newspaper from a particular date should show the same information, but "find me all information relating to Joe Bloggs" is a much more complicated question.


Mankind has not had any rights for 99,9 percent of those hundreds of thousands of years you mention and we have only had such accessible records on each other for the past 25 years.


> Mankind has done perfectly well without a "right to be forgotten" for hundreds of thousands of years.

Because mankind had a de-facto "right to be forgotten" that could be exercised by simply moving to a different community.


While I also oppose the "right to be forgotten", I think an obvious reply to your last point is that we also haven't had search engines, the web, newspapers, journalism, or even writing for most of that time.


Counterpoint to your counterpoint: now those who have done heinous things in history can rewrite it. I shudder to think of a terrible leader excising his failed tenure from the annals of history.

Google, for better or worse, is a repository of knowledge, the most powerful one we've ever had. We owe it to ourselves to use it responsibly, not hobble it. The problem is a puritanical society that refuses to let someone with a scarlet letter move on with their life.


The way the RTBF is usually formulated includes a notion of proportionality and public interest, so supposedly public officials can't exercise this right in this way, although it then involves a subjective point-in-time judgment about how important information is to history and the public interest.


The nazi hypothermia experiments using holocaust prisoners was simply measuring outcomes. It is the best measure of experimental outcomes we have using live test subjects...

But its highly questionable whether these results should be used, not only ethically, but because data gathered under such circumstances is less reliable... its more reliable than nothing... but should it be used? It exists and its mere existence will lead to policy and problems.

You should really listen to the podcast between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein that was just published on "The Bell Curve" and the data we have on IQ in minority populations. It might change the way you think about the immutability and sacrosanct nature of measuring outcomes.


In a "right to work" world, it is _very difficult_ to prove true discrimination, and the burden of proof is always on the accuser.


Mankind didn't have a way to look up in mere seconds the cringe-worthy posts I made on Usenet as a teenager for thousands of years either. It's the amount of data and the ease to consult it that creates this issue.


Of course not because if say a tabloid news paper finds out about some one they dislike or want to sell papers - they will "monster" them.


In theory, I think right to be forgotten is the government shirking its own responsibilities and leaving the administration of justice to large mega-corps.

In practice, it’s a pointless regulation circumvented by changing the url that imposes huge enforcement costs on big and small companies alike.

But the real problem is that it is top down legislation that tries to fix a symptom, not the disease. What is the problem? Companies won’t give ex-convicts jobs. Why? Because people distrust them and they can afford not to hire them (plenty of unemployed people to choose from). My impression is that the vast majority of employers feel this way. Interestingly, right to be forgotten does nothing to incentivize people to change or punish people for their prejudice. It also does not address the lack of jobs.

It's like if you had a society where 80% of people drive over the speed limit but doing so is illegal. The problem isn't that you need more laws. The problem is that your society has a different set of values. You can't legislate that people have a different set of values. At best you can try to reform a small set of the population that falls out of line.

And you can't legislate prosperity either. Making it illegal to not have a home won't get rid of homeless people anymore than the right to be forgotten will decrease unemployment in the EU.


Google is claiming to be acting in the interests of the public without the same mechanisms accessible to the public for moderating how this ability is used. Today Google can cite public interest, but it is just aligned and not acting purely on the public's interest. Like Facebook holding all user data forever, Google will definitely want to hold all data forever because someone it might make shareholders money.


I used to think I was unlucky to have an extremely common name. (First and Last) Now I consider myself lucky.

I cannot be found on Google or Facebook simply due to the massive signal-to-noise ratio. The fact that a minor celebrity and a minor athlete share the name help as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if Legal Name changing becomes even more of a thing as people try to hide their pasts from Google et al.


As I posted before, you don't even have to go to the point of conviction. If you are looking at several people, as tenants, employees, whatever- and one comes up as having been accused of some terrible misconduct, but was acquitted, why would you take the chance?

That's the real injustice. And it happens. It's a career-ender.


The states that permanently disenfranchise felons are mainly ex-Confederate. It is the legacy of the institutional race-based class system of the South. It was used with racial profiling and fraudulent eye-witness testimony against African-Americans to form Jim Crow v2 after Civil Rights.

It's become cliche to bring racism into unrelated topics, but it's the one thing that makes most of the puzzling things about America make sense. It's too bad many people in tech culture don't give importance to American history (either because they're foreigners who were never taught these things or because of their "pure" engineering mindset [which is itself a cultural product]), so end up aggravating old social ills.


> Google might as well be the official record for many people.

An interesting point, troubling because it seems likely.

Google the names of the team I was in right after I graduated and you would think a games company had employed the director general of the BBC, a famous rugby player, a horror film director and Doctor Who writer, an actor, a CBS news anchor, a cinematographer involved with several Marvel films, the Archdeacon of Harlow, and someone who (according to BBC reporting of the Paradise Papers) hid £28 million.

And before anyone says “oh but it would be ridiculous to mistake us for them”, my mum thought I had made the website belonging to aforementioned Doctor Who writer.


Google might as well be the official record for many people.

I couldn’t agree more. Public records are technically public, but often opaque and difficult to access. It’s one thing to allow a sufficiently motivated person to find this information out; it’s quite another to make it easy for casual acquaintances and neighbors to do it.

Google makes these records instantly accessible to anyone, and for whatever reason, seems to push more negative results about an individual higher in the search results. One need to look no further than to observe the prominence of Ripoff Report results in Google searches to prove this. The people behind this extortion scheme, which operates under a disgusting perversion of the Communications Decency Act, tout their Google dominance as one reason that their victims should pay them thousands of dollars per month to delete or modify the “reports” against them that appear on the site.


> We're rapidly moving to a point where an official (government) criminal record is not important to folks you want to interact with -- landlords, employers etc. They will instead turn to Google. As such, Google might as well be the official record for many people.

Based on... what?

Google can't search through Facebook data, much less other social networks. It also can't deduplicate common names like Frank Thompson, or Bob Michaels, or even tell you which one is from where. The data set is hopelessly flawed, and from a landlord or employer point of view, it's frankly the worst possible data set they can use to determine the reputation of an individual.

For notable people that have unique names and professions, maybe. But it still doesn't provide enough visiblity into their personal history to be of any use for the functions you suggest.


One problem is that the EU regulation is a losing fight technologically. Not that they can't affect the outcome, but that the regulations are going to be only effective in a small subset of cases.

It's like copyright. Right now, like the early days, you can search warez on Yahoo and find it. No bittorrent, etc. Once search engines got smart, with copyright, the violations just got pushed to smaller sites and decentralized protocols.

If the big search engines suddenly starts letting everyone edit search results about themselves, I bet in 5 years some IPFS / DHT / blockchain based technology that lets people permanently post and search news/rumours/gossip about other people will pop up.

Should this happen? I'm not sure, but with the nature of the Internet maybe it doesn't matter that much positively.


The problem I've seen with the current system is that Google is the record of truth even when the accused is proven innocent or the case is thrown out completely. Perception is reality and all people see are news stories about false claims. Someone being accused of a crime is great news, but rarely is an acquittal worth printing.

Then anytime a new story comes out with that persons name, the news outlet links to every other related story about them so they get more traffic and ad revenue at the person's expense. If Google and shady local news outlets are going to be the record of wrongs and control peoples careers and destiny, there needs to be some checks and balances.


> criminal record is not important to folks you want to interact with -- landlords, employers etc

Do not assume landlords and employers have access to people's criminal record - it's not the case in most countries!


I think this type of law is another case of good spirit, bad reality. Companies still don't want to hire criminals, so they try to guess who the criminals are. This results in them avoiding minorities.

https://news.virginia.edu/content/unintended-consequences-ho...


Agree with you on most points.

A jail, however, is not supposed to serve the purpose of being a mechanism of forgiveness. It is a mechanism of punishment. We as a citizenry give the government the sole right to jail / punish citizens as a way of enforcing the law. While someone may be reformed as an outcome of serving time, it is not the primary goal. Otherwise, we would see a higher focus on lowering recidivism rates.


It is not expressly a mechanism of punishment. It is expressly a mechanism of debt repayment; it can be argued that that is closer to a mechanism of forgiveness than one of punishment.


It is a mechanism of punishment.

This depends on the jurisdiction. Prisons serve many apparent purposes, the mix of claimed and actual intents varies: punishment, deterrent, removal from society for society's protection, commercial reasons, reformation, historical precedent ...

Whatever, I agree that few jurisdictions do a great job of lowering recidivism, putting into place the societal structures to support ex convicts after release in finding stable work and so on.


A friend of mine shares the name of an alleged rapist (not guilty) from decades ago. She has regularly experienced difficulty because of that.


On a tangent, another disturbing usurpation of public functions by private entities is the way you'll often get a quicker & more attentive response from some public agencies by Tweeting than if you go through official channels.


Landlords and employers as a rule should not have access to your records. The only exception is employers that have a legitimate concern such as for example security companies or banks.

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